By: Mark Lester
After five grueling months without baseball, it’s finally time for the 2019 season. The White Sox will open the season with five games on the road, three against the Rays and two in Cleveland against the Indians. On April 5, the Sox will finally play their first game at home against the Seattle Mariners in Guaranteed Rate Field. Guaranteed Rate Field, formerly known as US Cellular Field and Comiskey Park II, was opened in 1991 and has seen 27 years of White Sox baseball to date. The ballpark has seen some of the most glorious moments in White Sox history, such as their playoff run in 2005, the Blackout Game, and Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009. Naturally, since the White Sox play there, Comiskey II/US Cellular/Guaranteed Rate Field has also seen its fair share of futility, mediocrity and heartbreak. But perhaps the worst baseball ever seen in “The Cell” was the game that took place while the paint was still drying on the glistening new ballpark. It was the very first game ever played there, making it quite literally a “home opener.” And it was, without a doubt, the worst one in the history of Major League Baseball.
The date was April 18, 1991. The White Sox, were off to a solid start in the, going 6-1 in their first 7 games, all of which were on the road. After 80 years of White Sox baseball in Comiskey Park, they were about to play their first game in a new home ballpark, which was cleverly named Comiskey Park, but referred to as “Comiskey Park II” or “New Comiskey Park.” It was an exciting time for the city of Chicago; a new major league ballpark hadn’t been opened for the Cubs or White Sox for over 70 years. As over 40,000 fans flowed into the brand new state-of-the-art $120 million complex, they were amazed at how beautiful and technologically advanced it was compared to the worn down, dilapidated ballpark just across the street, Old Comiskey.
The opening of the new stadium was supposed to be the symbolic beginning for a new future for the team. Chicago hadn’t seen a World Series win since 1917, nor had they seen a pennant since 1959. They’d been cursed with front office ineptitude, bad rosters, and bad luck for decades. Maybe, just maybe, a new, fancy place to watch the beloved White Sox play would be the start of a new chapter in White Sox history, one that would see a franchise that wasn’t an embarrassment, but a source of pride for the city of Chicago.
For those in attendance of the home opener, those emotions of hope and pride were quickly vanquished.
The starting pitcher for the White Sox that day was Jack McDowell, who threw the first pitch in the brand new stadium. He didn’t make it out of the 2nd inning, allowing six runs to the visiting Detroit Tigers.
The 3rd inning was even more of a trainwreck. Pitchers Brian Drahman and Ken Patterson allowed a combined 10 runs, bringing the total score to 16-0.
Reminder: after only three innings of baseball in the brand new ballpark, the White Sox were down 16 runs.
The score wouldn’t change, and the fans who walked into New Comiskey Park as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning walked out having seen their beloved White Sox absolutely humiliated.
There have been far worse blowouts in MLB history, some of which we already saw last season. And although I doubt it, there may have even been a home opener where the margin of victory was larger than in Chicago in 1991. However, given the fact that Chicago, a city that had seen so much failure on the baseball field, saw their South Side team get walloped the very first time they stepped on a brand new one, this home opener was symbolic of the failures of past, and the supposed failure of the future.
Before the 1991 home opener, White Sox fans held onto the hope that the old ghosts of losing and despair had stayed in the crumbling Comiskey Park. A 16-0 loss at the hand of the Tigers was a cruel reminder that the baseball gods would continue to make the White Sox, arguably the worst franchise in MLB history, suffer.